Lochaber’s newest minister wants to build a church without barriers
Published on 9 January 2024 4 minutes read
Hospitality will be at the heart of ministry for Rev David Sim following his ordination and induction to the parish of Fort William Kilmallie, linked with Kilmonivaig.
For Mr Sim, Christian hospitality is about much more than offering the congregation teas and coffees at the end of a Sunday service.
It is about being a welcoming and active part of the community, and something that his new charge in Lochaber is already experienced in putting into practice. This is one of the reasons he was drawn to apply for the role of minister of Word and Sacrament in the Lochaber parish – along with the leisure opportunities living in the UK's Outdoor Capital provides for both himself and his wife, Heather.
"When we visited the church, the welcome we received and the sense of potential in a church community that is already making a difference just appealed to us," he said.
A welcoming church
Christian hospitality was the subject of Mr Sim's final year project while studying at Highland Theological College in Dingwall, and his views on the importance of hospitality as a part of Christian mission have only been reinforced by his time as a probationary minister at Hilton Parish Church in Inverness, alongside Rev Duncan MacPherson.
"There's a deep loneliness in much of society at the moment. My answer to that is Christian hospitality and the creation of a truly welcoming, embracing community where you can come with all your doubts and challenges," he explained.
"Something that made an impression at Hilton was our involvement with the community, working in partnership with other churches and organisations, providing warm spaces and meals, and just being with people who weren't necessarily wanting to come into a church. It was about recognising that we do a lot of our best ministry outside church buildings and working with others.
"Hilton proved that this culture can be nurtured. There are no prerequisites or barriers of entry."
A career in ministry would have been a surprise for the younger David Sim, who identified as an atheist in his 20s.
Originally from Aberdeen, he moved to Moray to work for the local council in 1995. There he began exploring the potential of IT in the early days of the internet, eventually leaving to join a partner in a new venture working with local government, the NHS and other sectors, to find ways of linking people together and ensuring they could access the help they needed.
However, despite success in his career, Mr Sim felt something was missing from his life.
"I started to be a seeker," he said.
"I tried everything and looked at various different faiths and practices, but nothing hit the mark."
But one faith tradition he resisted exploring was Christianity.
"It was something that my granny did and it was establishment, and that wasn't where I was going to find something to fill this hole in me. So, Christianity was the last thing I tried," he explained.
That changed when he picked up a copy of Making Sense of God by New York pastor Tim Keller to pass the time on a flight back to Scotland from Gatwick.
"When I read it, everything fell into place and that brought me to faith," he revealed.
Then, while helping his daughter clean his local church, he began thinking of taking things further.
He said: "With the quietness and stillness and nothing but the sound of a dustpan, I just began to get that sense that ministry was something that I was being called to, which came as a surprise to me, and certainly to Heather, who hadn't anticipated that at all."
His induction as minister of Fort William Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig might mark the end of his training journey, but Mr Sim sees it more as the start of something both for himself and for Heather – who, as a church organist is already in demand.
All a part of the story
Looking ahead to his ministry, he said: "Ultimately, we are there to serve our communities in the name of Jesus, so it is about increasing our understanding of what God wants us to do and recognising what gifts we have.
"We are part of the continuing story that started in Genesis 1 and rolls on today. The question is how we invite people today to be part of that story and fulfil their God-given part and purpose.
"There are so many gifts within our congregations and people of all ages, from the very youngest to the very oldest, have a lot to give too. One of the great things about church is that it has the potential to cut across generational barriers. We are coming together under the mantle of Christ and there is an enormous strength in that."